To break it down for a simpler explanation, it is better to look at each aspect of the term. The first part of the term deals with ‘public’; the term “public” refers to something that is linked to, accessible to, or familiar to people. Taking on the role of a school board member is an example of public service. In short, ‘public’ is made up of everyone present in a specific location. What is more important for this paper is the definition of intoxication. A state in which alcohol or drugs impair a person’s ability to act or reason normally is referred to as intoxication. In general, an inebriated individual who is unable to act as a sensible and cautious person would be supervised in the same circumstances.

Public intoxication is an alcohol-related offense that involves being clearly and noticeably intoxicated when in a public place as a result of excessive alcohol (or drug) use. A public inebriated person, often known as a “drunk and disorderly” person, is typically troubling others by acting aggressively, violently, or startlingly inappropriately.

In this article, we will discuss the points stated above, along with the laws of each state. Intoxication can be a serious crime and could round you up in jail, or you could be charged with a hefty fine to pay. 

Intoxication is the term given to delineate changes in motor skills as well as cognitive processes such as perception, mood, and thinking, which occur after the use of drugs or after drinking alcohol. Such effects happen because the drugs directly have an impact on our central nervous system (CBS), and as expected, our mental and physical state both become significantly diminished.

Alcohol Effects on Brain

It is not a requirement for only large doses to cause intoxication, but small doses – or even a single dose, are liable to result in at least some degree of intoxication. According to CDA (Central Drugs Authority), the commonality of intoxication is one in every six individuals heavily drinking (also called binge drinking) about four times a month. Binge drinking is defined as having four drinks every two hours for women and five or more drinks every two hours for men.

Being “drunk” or “off their head” are two terms given to an intoxicated individual. It is usually young adults who become drunk to alleviate stress and social pressure and as a mechanism of coping for situations that cause such feelings. This is because intoxication makes them feel joyful and takes their mind off the stressor. Many times, adolescents and young adults drink alcohol or consume drugs to fit in a certain social circle and to feel “accepted” by those around them.

Without much knowledge of the consequences, these individuals end up intoxicated and make their psychological conditions worse. Intoxication or public intoxication is one of the five most common offenses by college students. Heavy drinkers or binge drinkers also are extremely likely to fall into the depth of intoxication after a few drinks.

Public intoxication, also called public drunkenness, is defined most commonly as a misdemeanor and disorderly behavior of someone who is visibly under the influence of drugs. Drunkenness, in particular, is one’s mind being affected due to excessive drinking of alcohol. Heavy drinking whilst being in a public setting is the easiest way to describe public intoxication. Impaired judgment, aggressiveness, being a threat to others and their safety, and disturbing and/or hurting anyone in the surrounding environment are a handful of behaviors exhibited by someone who is intoxicated in public.

There are two main elements of public intoxication. Firstly, the individual, according to most laws, does not need to be drunk per day. All they need to be labeled as publicly intoxicated is to appear drunk or behave unusually. The reason actual drunkenness is not necessary for legal action to be taken is that the individual still poses a threat to his / her surrounding environment. Law enforcement need not take any chemical tests, as in the case of DUI (driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol), and the mere testimony of witnesses can be enough for the person to be charged as their conduct was troublesome and hazardous to those around him/her. Secondly, the intoxication and resulting behavior must take place in a public place. This means that someone who is intoxicated in their household cannot be charged with the crime of public intoxication, but someone at a mall or a family park most definitely will. What is defined as “public” differs from one state to another, but the general idea remains the same.

Unpredictable and rowdy behavior as a result of drunkenness poses a threat for the public, and for this reason, each country or state has its own set of rules that discourages public intoxication. In a majority of the states in the United States of America, drunkenness is seen as a warning sign, and the next course of action is usually rehabilitation. Public intoxication can lead to temporary arrest and subsequent penalties, as will be discussed next.

The legal definition of intoxication is exceeding a specific level of alcohol in the bloodstream, which is specifically 0.08 % Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). Despite this, it is not advised to go over 0.056 BAC because, after this point, the positive, euphoric effects of alcohol take a turn and become more depressive. It takes about five drinks to reach a BAC of 0.08 %. So for public intoxication to become criminal or illegal, it is going over this level of BAC.

Although public intoxication is not a major offense, and the person may simply be advised to enroll in a rehab center, it can result in jail time if any severe aftermath results. Several states in the USA do not have any set laws or retributions for public intoxication, but most of them place the offender in jail for 30 to 60 days depending upon the severity and the damage done through the intoxication. Some states may also imprison the offender from six months up to two years.

Monetary fines are usually $ 1000, but this may vary from state to state. Other fines include certain hours of community service and also having the crime permanently written on the individual’s record. Of course, this serves as a negative impact that no one wants on their record. Furthermore, for it to be a crime, a prerequisite for public intoxication is for the individual to disturb others and not just simply seem drunk. The third element of public intoxication, in continuation with what was discussed earlier, is if the person appears to be a threat to themselves and their wellbeing, and the intoxication can be seen as an interference in normal functioning. In such a case, public intoxication can result in temporary imprisonment.

An example of punishment differing in each state is how, in California, offenders are placed in what is called a “drunk tank” or “civil protective custody.” Usually, these tanks are pink as the color is proven to reduce unwanted violent behavior. Here, they are kept under close monitoring for up to 72 hours and treated. The public intoxication charge does not go on the person’s record this way.

Before looking at each state and its law specifically and separately, it is important to first under the law of Public Intoxication more generally. In some cases, the law may allow intoxication to be used as a defense. Intoxication is a defense to specific-intent offenses in several jurisdictions. This term may change in the eyes of the law depending on the context to which it is applied. Nonetheless, the fundamental argument is that an inebriated person cannot have the mental state required to prove the charge.

It is also recognized as a defense to general intent offenses in other jurisdictions. Although rape is usually thought to be a crime of general intent, severe intoxication may be used as a defense in some places. In such situations, however, the defense is unlikely to succeed unless the defendant was so inebriated that he or she was unable to create the intent to have sex.

In homicide cases, intoxication can be used to prove that there was no premeditation or deliberation, which is required for first-degree murder. When the defense successfully intervenes, a charge of first-degree murder is reduced to a charge of second-degree murder.

In drunk driving, the level of intoxication varies by state and ranges from .08 to .10 alcohol in the system, or a combination of alcohol and drugs that has the same impact even if the amount of alcohol is less than the minimum. The criterion for public intoxication is subjective, which means that the individual must be unable to care for himself, be a risk to himself or others, be making a disturbance, or refuse to leave or move along when asked.

Involuntary intoxication occurs when a person is compelled to ingest an intoxicant against his or her choice. The defense of involuntary intoxication is regarded similarly to the Insanity Defense in most countries. An inebriated individual who cannot differentiate right from wrong at the moment of incorrect conduct, for example, would have a legitimate defense. It is on these very lines that the question of whether the drunkenness was planned ahead of time (“I wanted to get drunk, so I had the nerve to kill her.”) comes into question. Conclusively, unintentional drunkenness might demonstrate a lack of ability to form intent, thus lowering the degree of conviction and penalty from voluntary (intentional) manslaughter to involuntary (unintentional but due to wrongful conduct) manslaughter.

California: Public intoxication is a misdemeanor in California, according to Penal Code 647(f). According to the law, public intoxication is defined as someone who is intoxicated by wine, narcotics, restricted substances, or toluene and is unable to care for themselves or others, or who interferes or obstructs the free use of streets, sidewalks, or other public ways. If a “sobering institution” is available, California Penal Code 647(g) allows law enforcement to take an individual who meets the arrest conditions for 647(f) and no other offense into civil protective custody.

In essence, the prisoner agrees to stay in the facility until the facility’s personnel approves their departure, which generally happens after four hours and when the detainee is deemed safe to care about himself. A facility like this does not exist in every community in California. A person will also be brought to jail if they are aggressive and/or under the influence of narcotics. A civil detainee under 647(g) is not prosecuted in a court of law, unlike someone who is arrested and brought to jail.

Colorado: In Colorado, public intoxication is not punishable by criminal or civil punishments. Instead, state law prevents municipal governments from enacting laws that penalize public drunkenness, but it does allow for the establishment of patrols trained to help inebriated and incapacitated persons.

Georgia: Public drunkenness is a class B misdemeanor in Georgia. It is defined in the same manner as public intoxication is defined more generally, but it focuses on permitting intoxication in ‘private property as well, given that it is without consent. The land and structures that surround a private residence are referred to as “private property.” This implies that a defendant who, for example, falls into or passes out in someone’s backyard while inebriated may be charged with public intoxication even though the defendant was not technically in public.

If the defendant causes personal or property damage while inebriated, he or she faces further penalties. Within their separate jurisdictions, counties and municipal corporations may enact extra laws to penalize public intoxication or disorderly behavior. As for the penalties, one may be fined up to $1000 or be imprisoned for a period of up to 12 months.

Indiana: Public drunkenness is a class B misdemeanor in Indiana, punishable by up to 180 days in prison and a $1,000 fine. [21] Being inebriated in public is no longer a felony as of 2012. The individual must also be (1) risking his or her own life; (2) endangering the lives of others; (3) violating the peace or in imminent danger of violating the peace; or (4) harassing, irritating, or scaring another person. 

Iowa: “A person must not be inebriated or simulate intoxication in a public place,” according to Iowa Code Sec 123.46. Public intoxication is a Simple Misdemeanor that carries a potential sentence of 30 days in prison and a fine of $1,000. Aggravated Public Intoxication (3rd or subsequent offense) is a felony that carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison. With an arrest rate of 8.28 per 1,000 people in 2013, Johnson County, home of the University of Iowa, has the highest percentage of public Intoxication arrests of any county in the state.

Kansas: Being inebriated in public is not a crime in Kansas. “No county or city shall adopt any local law, ordinance, resolution, or regulation having the force of law that renders public intoxication by alcohol in and of itself, or being a common drunkard, or being found in enumerated places in an intoxicated condition, an offense, a violation, or the subject of criminal penalties,” according to Kansas statute 65-4059.

Minnesota: Minnesota does not consider public intoxication to be a crime. Cities, such as the City of St. Cloud, can nonetheless enact ordinances prohibiting Public Intoxication.

Missouri: There is no state legislation prohibiting public intoxication in Missouri. Missouri’s permissive alcohol laws protect people from facing any criminal penalties (including arrest) for simply being intoxicated in public, and they also prevent municipal governments from implementing their own criminal public drunkenness statutes. 

Montana: Public intoxication is not a crime in Montana, according to state law. However, if an inebriated individual is a risk to himself or others, the law authorizes police authorities to escort them home or jail them. The legislation further specifies that no record can be made that indicates the individual was arrested or detained for being inebriated.

Nevada: There is no state legislation prohibiting public drunkenness in Nevada. Nevada state law prevents persons from facing any criminal penalties (including arrest) for just being intoxicated in public, and it also bans municipal governments from implementing their own criminal public drunkenness statutes.

Oregon: Oregon has no laws against public drunkenness and actively prohibits municipal intoxication statutes under Section 430.402. “However, if the person is disabled, their health appears to be in immediate danger, or the police have probable grounds to suspect the person is a threat to themselves or others, the individual should be transferred to an appropriate treatment facility by the police.” 

Texas: In Texas, public drunkenness is a Class C misdemeanor[26] (fines for Class C misdemeanors are limited to $500). If the perpetrator is a juvenile, however, the sanctions are more severe (especially if a two-time prior offender, in which case jail time can be ordered). 

Intoxication is defined in Section 49.01 of the Penal Code as “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties because of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body,” which includes both a blood alcohol content greater than 0.08 and “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties because of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a Officers have been accused of utilizing “public drunkenness” as a form of harassment, particularly against minority communities, due to the low standard of proof.

Virginia: Public drunkenness is illegal in Virginia under section 18.2-388 of the Code of Virginia. It can result in a fine of up to $250.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin, likewise (of Virginia) lacks state-level public drunkenness legislation; however, local governments can enact laws outlawing public intoxication. In Milwaukee, public intoxication is permitted, but public drinking is not.

This varies and depends greatly on what state the offense of public intoxication has taken place in. The spectrum is a rather varied one wherein some states it is considered a serious offense whereas in the others, it is allowed in its entirety; similarly, the states vary in their imprisonment and timeframes. To take an example, in Virginia, an offender is not imprisoned and rather only fined, whereas if one glances at the law of Iowa, one may be imprisoned for up to 30 days. These imprisonment timeframes go up to 12 months in some states as well. Thus to provide a specific and generic time frame as to how long a person guilty of public intoxication may stay in jail would be to eradicate the way the states have interpreted, enforced, and practiced the law and its different dimensions. 

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